Open the Door and Let ‘Em In
November 10th, 2021
Many of you reached out with concern for my ailing ankle, and I want to thank you. The reality is I am broken (but not my ankle bone). I am not a broken man, just broken. My years of gymnastics, Karate, Judo, and yes, Aikido, have left me damaged. I think my wife got me cheap as I am a ‘seconds.’ No complaints, I would not trade what I have learned. Maybe I train too hard (I am still teaching on my braced ankle) but that is the only way I know. Will I slow down? Probably not. I only have two speeds: overdoing it and sleeping. That is why I practice Tai Chi Chuan. It gives me a shot at getting out of bed tomorrow. Thanks for your good thoughts.
Hi to Kevin who joined our adult program. He walked in on Saturday insisting to join for six months. With that kind of enthusiasm, I cannot wait to see him on the mat.
Back in February 2019, we were enjoying some libations after class discussing the Patriots winning yet another Superbowl and lamenting how none of us had a good place for watching the game. I asked, “If the dojo had a TV, would you watch the game here?” The response was a little too excited. The dojo got a TV but in 2020, there was no Superbowl party as the world was shutting down. Today, there is still the giant TV hanging on the wall. It was great for Covid Zoom classes and it has achieved its non-football usefulness. Thanks to Drew, it displays announcements over the front desk. We look high tech. Come by and check it out. Thanks, Drew, for the set up and Sergio for the Surface (the thingy that makes the TV work).
Wow, this got a lot of responses. I was just kinda of having a good time typing when I wrote that one last week. Nevertheless, the challenge is still on. Take every adult class in one week, and you get a free t-shirt. I am adding to the prize. You will get an hour-long private lesson with yours truly. That is my satirical sense of humor. What do you get if you practice too much? More lessons! I love my job. Did I mention my propensity for overdoing things?
Lehrman Sensei – Wednesday, November 9, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Sensei teaches the second Wednesday of each month. This is a mandatory class for all ASNJ instructors and an exciting treat for all our students and guests. I suggest taking his class. It is the least you can do after the guy has to drive over the Verrazano.
Veterans’ Day Class – Thursday, November 11, 7:00 pm. Open to all members, veterans, and guests. We will be honoring veterans, including our own ten ASNJ students who have served. Please come to show your support and stay for a fun class and a great party to follow. This event is free and open to all members of ASNJ, their families and veterans or guests from any dojo who wish to spend the evening celebrating with us. There will be food and refreshments after class. The event is being co-sponsored by the Cranford VFW Post 335. Tai Chi Chuan class is canceled this evening.
Women of ASNJ Winter Event - Saturday December 11 (New date), 5:00 – 7:00 – Open to all female members, or any female relative of an ASNJ member. Details to follow. Speak to Annie or Vanessa if you wish to help with the event especially if you have a special skill you wish to share.
Holiday Potluck Party - Saturday December 18 starting 2:00pm – It can’t be the holiday season without a potluck party at your friendly neighborhood dojo. I will teach the 2:00 class, the Jr Deshi class is canceled, and we will party afterwards. Bring a dish and let’s celebrate the holiday spirit together.
Open the Door and Let Them In
I was at the NY Aikikai last week for Sensei Lehrman’s Friday class to practice with a friend from Aikido Westchester: David Katz and to attend the traditional Friday post-class Szechuan food on Eighth Avenue. Lehrman Sensei taught a class I have seen in the past but with a new focus. We worked on katatori as nage’s arm moves when grabbed and the effects on uke from the movement of the arm. Lehrman Sensei stressed not to try to affect uke but let the movement do that. I was looking at this afterwards and was fascinated by the simplicity of this. Not to over obsess or to take something to the extreme (you have read the last 2 weeks where I discuss 100%? Make sense now?), I added my Tai Chi Chuan thinking (more is less or wu wei) and minimalized the arm movement.
My idea was to turn my forearm without uke feeling it. I would have to keep my arm in the same location and only rotate the forearm almost as if the only movement was my bones rotating under my skin. Imagine turning a doorknob, you rotate around the knob, but the knob does not move as it is set in the door. The doorknob only twists until it is unlatched (Recall the door I replaced last week in the women’s bathroom. See how I learn stuff? Everything is relevant.) They, uke, would not experience anything while their body moved off their center. That is all that is needed to disturb their balance enough to make the rest of the technique a foregone conclusion.
To make it a little more advanced, the next class (I am completely copying a Lehrman Sensei class from years back), is to do this in motion, not static. Before uke grabs my wrist, twist my forearm and uke moves as if he had my wrist. Uke alters the integrity of their spine (slightly losing their balance) and the rest of the technique is done (unless you stop moving or use force to give them their balance back). I hope this is making sense as you are not doing it while reading this. If anyone wants to discuss, I am happy to email or chat. In my mind, I am understanding myself perfectly. Hope you are too.
I was told by my editors that I have been writing about 100% enough, move on to another topic, but I am not done working on it yet. I have a lot of work to do. I am giving it a break this week mostly because as my ankle is hurt, I can’t shift into my right ankle. (No Tai Chi Chuan class this Thursday, November 11, instead, come to the Veterans Day class.) So, we focused on stances. I think that in both Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan, we need to spend a lot of time working on correct stances. There is a lot of information in the basic stances many take for granted.
I am very big on not only starting and finishing in hamni, but also transitioning through hamni during techniques when my students’ test. In Tai Chi Chuan, that fundamental posture is 70-30. Named because 70% of your weight is in the front foot and unless you are a kangaroo, the other 30% is in the back foot. One thing about Aikido is hamni does not change whether all the weight in the back foot or the front. In Tai Chi Chuan, we have different stances but the difficult one its 70-30. Your feet are shoulder width apart; the front foot is point forward and the back is 45°. Both knees are bent, and the front calf is vertical (knee is not over the toe). Your hips are square and level, and your back is straight. Sounds easy. Give it a try. I am happy to help correct. It is very difficult due to tension in your hips (that we all have). The posture focuses the weight on the front foot while giving you freedom to turn right or left as both legs are always bent.
I love working on stances, some may find it a little tedious. The idea of these stances (hamni and 70-30) allow you a freedom of movement while giving you a focus in one direction. (Oxymoron alert) Both stances explore all directions while focused at uke simultaneously. Both postures not only make available the ability, but they also improve it. The stances allow the upper body to relax into the legs while allowing the structure of the posture to support the weight, not upper body strength.
Practicing them are a great way to teach a class on a bad ankle. I must take a greater stance against ankle pain (OMG, that one hurt me, literally and figuratively). Try taking a stance. And try to overdo it.
“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”
- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido